Fashion Masochist: Scarlet Fever

With designer duds coming up roses, Rachel Baker paints the town.

Fashion Masochist Scarlet Fever

Illustration by Montana Forbes

Like most Bostonians, I wear a lot of black. It’s safe, slimming, and historically chic. This season, though, the fashion world is brightening up, and not by adding a colored piece here and there. The trend is head-to-toe monochrome, at once daring and minimalist. The style manifested itself in yellow at Narciso Rodriguez and in taupe at Rodarte, but things got hot at Prada, Dior, and Fendi: red—everywhere and all at once, from suits and dresses to shoes and leg warmers.

In hopes that a fiery look will be a stylish way to melt my winter blues, I assemble an ensemble of red pea coat, basic red dress, red tights, and red patent leather heels. For those of us with a pear-shape figure, pairing cherry tights with a black dress is about as good an idea as wearing horizontal-stripe Bermuda shorts; however, the one-color effect turns out to be flattering.

When I first step onto blustery Columbus Avenue, my crimson outfit puts a little spring in my step. Take that, winter! As I walk down Mass. Ave., more passersby smile at me than usual, but I’m unclear on whether this is because my color scheme is making me initiate extra eye contact, the cheery hue is rubbing off on them, or they just assume I’m a local news anchor.

Halfway through a mani at My Nail Salon, the technician asks me what color polish I would like. “Gray!” I say, loudly and clearly and with a grin. She nods, then returns to the table with two different bottles of scarlet. “No thank you! I’d like gray, please!” She again scurries off and back, delivering another shade of red.

At the office, a friend looks at my outfit and jokes, “Rosie! You’re turning rosy, Rosie!” But I don’t let her comment faze me—I’m a fun, confident gal who can rock red if she wants to! That is, until my colleague’s little ­analogy comes true a few hours later, when I’m waiting in a snaking line at CVS. It’s like a furnace in there, and I can feel my face flush. Then I glance behind me and glimpse the most attractive early-thirties guy ever to walk the streets of the commonwealth. And he seems to be smiling. When I blush, my face is the color of my dress…is the color of my shoes…. I keep my head down until checkout.

Within certain crowds, though not exactly my typical crowds, I feel right at home. The opening party for Bistro du Midi, over by the Public Garden, is inexplicably packed with people at least twice my age, all beaming at me approvingly. There’s no chance I’m an angry, misunderstood youngster in a getup like this. Plus, to them—a few of whom have on red St. John pieces themselves—I’ve got great taste.

When the weather takes a turn, I have no choice but to punctuate the red, trading the thin pea coat for a black down coat and swapping the scuffable heels for tall flat black boots. I expect relief, but realize as I walk through Foodie’s with the coat in my cart that I look like someone.

I look like Santa.